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Top Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies 1

DAY 5: Sugar Cookies (Two Doughs/Many Variations)

Sugar Cookies are the iconic Christmas treat. Good thing they are also extremely versatile. Once you have your sugar cookie base, you can easily change up the design for very different looks and tastes. I have two basic sugar cookie doughs that I like to use. The first is a soft, thick dough that stays pillowy soft and tender after baking. This is the dough I use for most of my sugar cookies:

Sugar Cookies 2

But if I need really sharp edges, and absolutely no spread when the dough is baked, I go with the dough below. The cookies are still soft if you don’t overbake them, but they are more dense than the other recipe.

Sharp Edges Sugar Cookies

Whichever dough you choose, you can make traditional frosted sugar cookies, with various types of icing, or try something just a little different. These two options are actually easier than frosting with a regular icing.

Snow Capped Christmas Trees:

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies:

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies 2

ORIGINAL BLOG POSTS:
Soft and Thick Sugar Cookies (2009)
Sharp Edged Sugar Cookies (2014)
Snow Capped Christmas Trees (2016)
Stained Glass Sugar Cookies (2016)

RECIPE:

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies 2

Soft and Thick Sugar Cookies

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
About 7 – 7 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter, sour cream, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Mix in 4 cups of flour, the baking soda, and salt. Mix in enough additional flour to make a moderately stiff dough.

Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour for easier handling. Roll out dough to desired thickness (about 1/4” thick) and cut with cookie cutter.

Bake at 375°F for 10 -11 minutes; if they brown, it’s been too long.  They should look white when done.

Frost and decorate as desired.

Yield will depend on the size of your cookie cutter and the thickness of your dough. I got 6 dozen cookies made from 3” cookie cutters.

Sharp Edges Sugar Cookies

Sharp Edged Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups flour

Royal Icing
Optional: Shimmery Sanding Sugar or Coarse Sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in extracts and egg.

In a separate bowl combine baking powder with flour and slowly mix into the wet ingredients. The dough will be stiff.

Do not chill dough. Roll dough out onto a floured surface to almost 1/4 inch. You want these cookies to be thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out cookie shapes and place on baking sheets.

Bake for 7-9 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

Yield will depend on the size of your cookie cutter and the thickness of your dough. I got 25 cookies made from 4” snowflake cookie cutters.

(Sharp edged sugar cookie dough from In Katrina’s Kitchen)

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

Snow Capped Christmas Trees

Sugar Cookie Dough (see above)
Green food coloring
About 12 oz white chocolate, or white melting candy discs

Prepare sugar cookie dough.  Mix in a few drops of green food coloring. Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour, if necessary, for easier handling. Roll out dough and cut out with Christmas tree cookie cutter.

Bake according to sugar cookie dough recipe.

Place white chocolate in a bowl at least as wide as the cookie sides you will be dipping. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each heating, until melted and smooth. Dip each edge of the cooled cookies in the melted chocolate and place on waxed paper to harden.

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies

Stained Glass Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookie Dough (see above)
1 package Jolly Rancher candies, cut in half for small openings

Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Roll out dough to about 1/8” and cut out with large  cookie cutters. Place shapes on lined baking sheets. Cut out a smaller shape inside of each cookie  (after placing on baking sheet). I used the centers from a linzer cookie cutter set to make the center openings

Place half of a Jolly Rancher candy in the center of each cookie. Use a whole Jolly Rancher if the opening is large enough to lay the entire candy down inside the opening.

Bake according to sugar cookie dough recipe. Cool completely on the baking sheet. When candy centers are completely cool and hardened, remove cookies to a sheet of parchment paper.

Store covered between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. The candy centers will stick together if they touch.

Frostings

Sugar Cookies 2

Glacé Icing

1 lb powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
¼ cup+ 2 Tbs  whole milk
¼ cup + 2 Tbs light corn syrup
1 tsp almond or vanilla extract
Gel food coloring
Additional powdered sugar to reach piping consistency

With a whisk, combine sugar and milk until smooth. Stir in corn syrup and almond or vanilla extract. Add food coloring for desired colors.

You will use this same recipe for both glazing and piping. The way it is right now is the consistency you want for glazing. It’s smooth and thin. It easily runs off of a whisk in a thin drizzle.

To prepare the icing for piping, add additional powdered sugar until icing is stiff, but spoonable.

(Glacé Icing from Our Best Bites)

Sharp Edges Sugar Cookies

Royal Icing

2 Tbs meringue powder
scant ¼ cup water
½ lb powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
½  tsp light corn syrup

Combine the meringue powder and water in a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat until foamy. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Do NOT skip the sifting!)

Mix in the corn syrup. Increase speed to med-high/high and beat for about 3-5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. (You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling.) Do not overbeat.

To store for later use: cover with plastic wrap touching the icing and refrigerate.

For Snowflakes: Use a thick open circle decorator tip to pipe thick lines onto each snowflake. Sprinkle cookie with sanding sugar or sprinkles immediately after piping lines (on each cookie). Icing will harden quickly.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11

Cooked Vanilla Icing

1 cup whole milk
5 Tbs flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar (do not use powdered sugar)
Optional: food coloring

In a small saucepan, mix the flour and milk until combined. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens (and is just about to boil). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Let mixture cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best for this) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled milk mixture and beat for 5-7 minutes, until frosting is light, fluffy, and completely uniform throughout.  Beat in food coloring, if desired.

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Top Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Lofthouse Style Soft Sugar Cookies

Lofthouse Cookies 4

DAY 2: Lofthouse Style Soft Sugar Cookies

Lofthouse Cookies: those pillowy-soft cookies in the grocery store with a frosting that hardens just enough to be able to stack them. The homemade version are even better. And much easier to make than rolled and frosted sugar cookies.

Lofthouse Cookies 1

To frost them, simply hold them in your hand and dip them upside down into a bowl of icing. Shake on some candied sprinkles, let them set for an hour and you are ready to go. You can use different flavored extracts (vanilla, almond, orange, peppermint, etc.) for different flavored frostings.

Lofthouse Cookies 5

ORIGINAL BLOG POST (2014): Lofthouse Style Soft Sugar Cookies

RECIPE:

Lofthouse Style Frosted Christmas Cookies

  • Servings: about 3 dozen
  • Print

Lofthouse Cookies 1

Cookies:
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Beat butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix into butter and sugar in mixing bowl. If the dough is too sticky to roll into balls, refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes.

With hands, roll dough into 1” balls for small cookies, slightly larger for larger cookies. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Flatten dough balls slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 7-9 minutes. Do not overbake.

Glaze Frosting:
6 Tbs butter
½ cup heavy cream
1 lb (about 4 cups) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla (or ½ tsp almond, ½ tsp orange, or ¼ tsp peppermint) extract
3-4 drops gel food coloring
Candy Sprinkles

Place butter and cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for about 60-90 seconds, until butter melts. Use a whisk to mix in powdered sugar. If you are making more than one color or flavor of frosting, divide frosting into separate bowls. Stir in extract (if you want to use white icing, use a clear vanilla or other flavored extract). Mix in food coloring.

Dip tops of cooled cookies in warm glaze and place on a sheet of waxed paper. Sprinkle immediately with candy sprinkles (the glaze starts to set fast: dip one cookie, then add sprinkles, then dip another cookie, etc). If glaze gets too thick, heat in microwave for 15-20 seconds. Allow glaze to set on cookies for about 1 hour before storing cookies.

To freeze: Freeze cookies in single layer and then place in container and store in freezer. Thaw cookies in a single layer.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

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Sugar-Free Strawberry Cheesecake

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 6

This sugar-free strawberry cheesecake may have just jumped onto my list of all-time favorite desserts, even those full of sugar.

This is a no-bake cheesecake that is easy to put together. Made with fresh strawberries, it is a fabulous summer dessert that won’t heat up the kitchen.

It is light and airy, not dense like a baked cheesecake. I sweetened it with stevia and erythritol, but you can easily substitute real sugar. But for those watching their carb and sugar intake, this is a wonderfully satisfying dessert. My kids don’t even miss the sugar!

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 4

I made it in a 9” springform pan, and it completely filled the pan for a nice tall cheesecake. You could make it in a little bit larger pan instead if you don’t want quite as thick of slices.

I garnished the cheesecake with some whipped cream and fresh berries. A wonderful light and summery dessert.

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 3

RECIPE:

Sugar-Free Strawberry No-Bake Cheesecake

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 6

Crust:
¾ cup whole almonds (roasted and salted)
¼ cup whole pecans
¼ cup rolled oats
3 Tbs butter, melted
10 drops of liquid stevia

Filling:
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup erythritol
½ tsp liquid stevia
½ cup cool water
2 (1 oz) packages unflavored gelatin
1 quart (4 cups) whole strawberries, hulled
1 cup heavy cream

Garnish:
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs cream cheese, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
5 drops liquid stevia
Whole strawberries, and/or other berries (raspberries, blackberries)

Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place almonds, pecans, and oats in a food processor; blend until finely ground. Add butter and stevia  and pulse until combined. Lightly spray 9” springform pan with baking spray (I like coconut oil spray for this). Press crust mixture onto bottom of pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Filling:
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sour cream, vanilla, erythritol, and stevia and beat again until smooth.

Place cool water in a separate bowl; sprinkle gelatin over water. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until gelatin has softened. Microwave for 15 seconds, or until gelatin has dissolved.

Place strawberries in a food processor. Blend until very finely chopped (mixture will be slightly liquidy). Add gelatin mixture to food processor and pulse until mixed. Add chopped strawberries to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Taste mixture and add additional sweetener, if needed.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip 1 cup cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into filling.

Pour mixture over cooled crust in the springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours or until firm.

Garnish:
Combine cream, cream cheese, vanilla, and stevia in a mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Pipe onto top of chilled cheesecake and garnish with fresh berries.

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Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 1

Last week, we attended a Boy Scout fundraising auction. I made a few items to contribute, including this Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake. It is a 4-layer chocolate cake filled with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing. And garnished with chocolate covered strawberries.

There were sooo many delicious looking desserts at the auction. Not a good time to be on a low-carb diet.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 3

Since I didn’t actually get to cut and eat this cake, I don’t have an inside picture, but it looks similar to this Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake:

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake 5

except that I added sliced fresh strawberries in between the layers with the icing:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 2

 

RECIPE:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 1

Ingredients (recipes below):
Chocolate Layer Cake
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate Layer Cake
2 cups flour
½ cup regular cocoa powder
½ cup Dutch process cocoa (or Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ cups (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 2 9” cake pans; line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Grease paper and then dust entire pan with cocoa powder.

Combine flour, cocoa powders, baking soda and salt. Mix with a whisk. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars for 5 minutes. The mixture should be very pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until smooth.

Divide batter into prepared pans and bake for 28-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, remove parchment paper and cool.

Cooled cake layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen until you are ready to assemble them. (For this cake, if you are freezing the layers: cut each layer in half before freezing to make 4 layers).

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing
1 ½ cups egg whites (about 12 large egg whites, or use pasteurized egg whites that come in a carton)
2 ½ cups sugar
pinch of salt
3 cups unsalted butter (6 sticks), at room temperature**
1 Tbs vanilla extract
about 1 ½ cups Strawberry Puree (see recipe below)
about 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (set aside for cake assembly)

In the top of a double boiler, stir together  egg whites, sugar and salt. Bring water in bottom of double boiler to a low simmer; cook until the temperature of the egg whites reaches 160°F and sugar is completely dissolved (rub mixture between fingertips-it should not feel gritty). Mixture will be foamy and not a uniform consistency.

Transfer the egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip until meringue is completely cooled and glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. DO NOT ADD BUTTER UNTIL BOTH THE BOWL AND FROSTING ARE COMPLETELY COOL. Switch mixer attachment from the whisk to paddles. Add butter 1-2 Tablespoons at a time until incorporated. Mixture may appear curdled at times. Continue beating until butter is fully incorporated and frosting is fluffy and smooth.  This will take about 10 minutes.  Add vanilla and beat smooth. Add strawberry filling and beat until frosting is a uniform color.

**BUTTER NOTE: butter should be at room temperature soft, but not overly soft. If the butter is too cold, it will not incorporate well into the meringue, and you will have butter chunks. If the butter is over-soft, it will cause the icing to curdle while beating-this is okay, it isn’t ruined: it will just take longer (more beating) for the frosting to become smooth. If icing still won’t set, place in the fridge for 20 minutes, and then beat again.

Strawberry Puree:
2 cups whole fresh strawberries, hulled
2 Tbs sugar

Process strawberries in a food processor until very finely chopped, but not completely liquefied. Mix in sugar.

Chocolate ganache:
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about ½ cup, slightly heaping)
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbs corn syrup

Place the chopped chocolate into a small bowl and set aside. In a Pyrex measuring cup or microwavable bowl, combine the heavy cream and corn syrup. Heat for 30-45 seconds; stir. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for one minutes, then stir until smooth.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries:
Fresh strawberries
Chocolate and vanilla melting chocolates

Melt chocolate and vanilla melting chocolates in separate bowls. Dip strawberries in melted chocolate and place on waxed paper.

Place remaining melted chocolates in Ziploc bags and poke a hole in one corner of each bag. Drizzle strawberries with contrasting chocolate.

Let chocolate harden completely before placing on cake.

Cake Assembly:
Completely cool cake layers. Cut each layer in half to make 4 layers. Prepare frosting and ganache.

Place waxed paper strips along edges of serving plate. Place one cake layer, cut side up, on the serving plate. Waxed paper strips should cover the exposed part of the plate, but not be too far under the cake layer. Spread cake with a layer of strawberry icing. Press sliced fresh strawberries into icing. Top with another cake layer. Repeat with frosting and remaining cake layers. Ice entire cake with a thin crumb coat of icing. Refrigerate cake for 2o minutes to set slightly (optional). Create a smooth finish with remaining icing over entire cake (top of cake should be completely flat).

Drizzle cake with ganache, letting it drip down the sides. Refrigerate cake.

Decorate top and base of cake with chocolate covered strawberries.

Storage:  Store cake in refrigerator.

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Lemon Cake-Mix Cookies

Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

DAY 9: Lemon Cake-Mix Cookies

A soft, lemony, slightly gooey cookie.

We make a similar cookie with a white cake mix that we call Snowball Cookies, but there was just something wrong with calling these “Yellow Snow”- ball Cookies.

This is a great recipe for kids and beginning bakers, as there is minimal measuring. Kids are also great helpers when it comes to rolling things in powdered sugar. Just plan a little extra clean-up time if you let them help with that step.

RECIPE:

Lemon Cake-Mix Cookies

Makes 2 ½ – 3 dozen cookies

Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

½ cup butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp fresh lemon zest, optional
1 box lemon cake mix
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, cream cheese and vanilla. Use an electric mixer to beat until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and lemon zest and then cake mix. Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Place about ½ cup powdered sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into balls (about 1” in diameter) and then roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust cooled cookies with additional sifted powdered sugar.

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9th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Almond Toffee Sandies

Almond Toffee Sandies 3

Welcome to December and No Empty Chairs’ 9th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies Celebration! Twelve more days – Twelve more cookies.

DAY 1: Almond Toffee Sandies

Similar to Pecan Sandies, but with the sweet, crunchy addition of caramel toffee bits. A new family favorite!

Almond Toffee Sandies 1

Sharing cookies and treats is one of my favorite ways to show love during the Christmas season. Another great tool to find ways to love and serve is this Light the World campaign.

Need some inspiration on ways to Light the World? This 25 Ways, Over 25 Days calendar gives great inspiration from the ultimate source of light, whose birth we celebrate. Click through for ideas on how to apply the Savior’s teachings this Christmas season:

 

Image result for light the world calendar jpg

RECIPE:

Almond Toffee Sandies

Makes about 7 dozen small cookies

Almond Toffee Sandies 2

(adapted from Taste of Home)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mild flavored olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
4 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt **
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups coarsely chopped whole roasted almonds
1 package (about 8 oz) toffee bits

(**reduce salt in recipe if using salted almonds)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Gradually beat in oil and vanilla and almond extracts.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt””, and cream of tartar. Mix into the butter mixture gradually. Add chopped almonds and toffee bits and mix well.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 12-13 minutes, until bottom of cookies just begin to brown. Cool on wire racks.

Light the World Image

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Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes

(and a gender reveal–NO, not mine)

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 13

I first made these chocolate butterfly cupcakes for my sweet Little J’s 6th birthday. I was feeling very nostalgic about having my last baby in kindergarten and we had a super fun cooking party with a few of her friends. It is (by far) my favorite kids’ birthday party that I’ve hosted. I still get a little bit weepy just thinking about it. If you like a good sentimental cry, you can read about it HERE.

Then last month, a friend asked if I could make some gender reveal cupcakes to announce the sex of their upcoming new baby to their other four children. While I am perfectly content with the 5 children I already have and have no desire to start again with another one (5 years and counting until we are empty nesters!), celebrating with other new moms always makes me reflect on my own babies that are not babies any more.

So I happily agreed, and immediately knew that I wanted to make these butterflies again, for my friend and her family who are welcoming a new life into their family, and for me to reminisce about my own little ones and the joy it has been parenting them. And having my Little J (who isn’t so little anymore) help me make the butterflies and cupcakes was a really great experience.

And because writing this is making me feel nostalgic all over again (and this is my blog so I get to indulge my wistful feelings as much as I want), here is my Little J, then and now:

Little J 2010 2017-09-13 15.54.09

Enough about me and my maudlin ramblings; you really just want to hear about the cupcakes. For my friend, I made my favorite dark chocolate cupcakes. They are tender and moist and absolutely delicious. It also doesn’t hurt that they are easy to make. They start with a cake mix, but the addition of pudding and sour cream takes them well beyond your average chocolate cupcake.

For the “gender reveal”, I cut out a section of the top of each cupcake and filled it with a blue filling (It’s a Boy!!). For the filling, I mixed the white frosting with some of the leftover blue candy melts from the butterflies and piped it into the cut-out centers.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 9

The frosting I used is a cooked vanilla frosting. It is not as sweet as a traditional buttercream, but is light and fluffy and delicious. I tinted the frosting with pink and blue food coloring to make a striped frosting.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 10

To create the two-toned look, use a paintbrush and food coloring to paint stripes onto the inside of a pastry bag. (Credit to my hand model Little J!) Carefully spoon white frosting into the bag. Before frosting the cupcakes, squeeze out a small amount of frosting until the color begins to show in the frosting. I used a 1M tip to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11

Now on to the butterflies. Full disclosure: these are time consuming. But they are not particularly difficult. Just be prepared to spend several hours making them if you plan to make a lot.

Items needed:
chocolate and colored candy melts, stencil printed on paper, waxed paper, toothpicks, foil, pastry bags (one for each color), one writing piping tip, small round sprinkles. Optional: heating pad

Draw your desired butterfly wing shape onto a sheet of white paper using a permanent marker. Cut pieces of waxed paper (one for each set of wings you are making) large enough to cover the stencil. You can also draw a set of antennae if desired (see example HERE).

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 1

Place a small amount of colored and chocolate melting disks into separate pastry bags or Ziploc bags. Melt in microwave—Start with 30 seconds, squish bags, then add an additional 10 seconds if not completely melted.

To keep the chocolate melted while making dozens of wings, I placed a piece of plastic wrap over a heating pad and set the bags on the heating pad while they weren’t being used.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 4

I used a writing tip to pipe the chocolate, but I just cut off a small end of the bag to squeeze out the melted colored candy.

Place a small square of waxed paper over your stencil paper. Use the melted chocolate to trace around the edge of one wing at a time.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 2

While the chocolate outline is still wet, squeeze a small amount of colored chocolate into the center of each wing section. I used pink in the top section and blue in the bottom section. Use a toothpick to spread colored chocolate to fill the wing. Use a toothpick to gently swirl chocolate edges and colored chocolate. Sprinkle edges of wings with round sprinkles, if desired.

Work with just one wing at a time. The chocolate hardens quickly!

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 3

Let the wings harden completely before assembling butterflies.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 6

To make the body and assemble the butterflies, fold a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil in half and then into a v-shape with a flat bottom (about 1/2” wide).

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 16

Using the melted chocolate (remove the writing tip), pipe a body onto a separate piece of waxed paper (or directly onto the bottom section of the folded foil). Make little dollops of chocolate, being sure that they touch.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 15

Place segmented body (before it hardens) into the folded foil and place the wings at an angle into the still soft chocolate body. Prop them up underneath if the foil doesn’t hold them. (Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of this step)

Don’t use your fingers to support the wings while the body dries: the chocolate will melt in your fingers and ruin the wings.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 7

 

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 8

Gently press a butterfly onto the top of each frosted cupcake.

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 13

Did you know that a group of butterflies is called a “Kaleidoscope.” What a perfect description of these butterflies! Whatever they are officially called, your family will call them beautiful and delicious!

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 14

 

RECIPES:

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

  • Servings: 30-36 cupcakes
  • Print

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11

1 box dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1 small box (3.9 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
½ cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350°F . Place cupcake liners in muffin tins.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients and beat with a mixer for 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners just over halfway. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Cooked Vanilla Frosting

  • Servings: frosting for 24-36 cupcakes
  • Print

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11

2 cups whole milk
10 Tbs flour
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups butter
2 cups granulated sugar (do not use powdered sugar)
Optional: gel food coloring

In a small saucepan, mix the flour and milk until no lumps remain. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens (and is just about to boil). Remove from heat and let it cool completely to room temperature.  Stir in vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best for this) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled milk mixture and beat for 5-7 minutes, until frosting is light, fluffy and completely uniform throughout. Beat in food coloring, if desired.

This frosting looks best when piped with a large decorating tip, but can also be spread with a spatula.

Chocolate Butterflies (Cupcake Toppers)

Butterfly Cupcakes 001  Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 13

Ingredients and Equipment:

Melting chocolate (both chocolate and colored)
Sprinkles (small round)
Waxed paper
Toothpicks
Ziploc bags or pastry bags
Writing tip
Butterfly stencil
Aluminum foil

Assembly Instructions:

  • Trace wing and antennae pattern onto a piece of white paper.
  • Place a small amount of colored and chocolate melting disks into separate pastry bags or Ziploc bags. Melt in microwave—Start with 30 seconds, knead bags, then add an additional 10 seconds if not completely melted. Place a round writing tip on the bag with the chocolate, and cut off one corner of each colored candy bag.
  • To keep the chocolate melted while making dozens of wings, place a piece of plastic wrap over a heating pad and set the bags on a heating pad while not using.
  • Place a small square of waxed paper over your stencil paper. Use the melted chocolate to trace around the edge of one wing at a time.Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 2  Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 3
  • While the chocolate outline is still wet, squeeze a small amount of colored chocolate into the center of each wing section. I used pink in the top section and blue in the bottom section. Use a toothpick to spread colored chocolate to fill the wing. Use a toothpick to gently swirl chocolate edges and colored chocolate. Sprinkle edges of wings with round sprinkles, if desired.
  • Work with just one wing at a time. The chocolate hardens quickly! Let the wings harden completely before assembling butterflies.
  • Fold a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil in half and then into a v-shape with a flat bottom (about 1/2” wide).Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 16  Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 15
  • Using the melted chocolate (remove the writing tip), pipe a body onto the bottom section of the folded foil. Make little dollops of chocolate, being sure that they touch.
  • Place the wings at an angle into the still soft chocolate body. Prop them up underneath if the foil doesn’t hold them. Let butterflies harden completely before gently peeling off of foil and placing on cupcakes.Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 7

 

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Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice 1

Mango Sticky Rice may be the primary reason my kids love eating at Thai restaurants. They also love the curries, stir-fries and satays, but this simple dessert definitely tops the list.

Making this at home may not be as much fun as a night out for dinner, but it sure saves the pocketbook! And with this recipe, there is always lots to go around, so there is no fighting for the last bite.

The two main types of mangoes you find here in the US are Haden and Ataulfo. The orange/red/green Haden mangoes are the most common, but the smaller yellow Ataulfo mangoes are my favorite. They are very sweet and have fewer strings than the larger Hadens.

Haden Mango     Ataulfo Mango

For a complete Thai dinner experience, try one of these curries as an entrée before your Mango Sticky Rice:

Thai Green CurryThai Green Curry

Thai Pumpkin Curry
Thai Pumpkin Curry

Thai Red Curry
Thai Red Curry

 

Mango Sticky Rice 2

RECIPE:

Mango Sticky Rice

Mango Sticky Rice 1

1 cup short grain white rice
1 ½ cups unsweetened refrigerated coconut milk (or use water)
1 can coconut milk (do not use lite; do not shake can)
6 Tbs sugar, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
3 ripe mangoes, chilled

Combine rice and 1 ½ cups refrigerated coconut milk or water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is cooked.  Alternately, cook rice with coconut milk in a rice cooker.

Carefully open the can of coconut milk and scoop out the thick coconut cream from the top of the can. Set cream aside in a small bowl. Pour the thinner coconut milk from the bottom of the can into a small saucepan. Stir in 4 Tbs sugar and ¾ tsp salt. Heat over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, but do not boil. Remove from heat and slowly stir the hot sweetened coconut sauce into the rice in the pan. Cover and let sit for an additional 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Place the thick coconut cream in a small saucepan. Stir in 2 Tbs sugar and ¼ tsp salt. Cook over low heat until cream melts and sugar dissolves. Do not boil.

Slice chilled mangoes.

Place ½ cup of the warm cooked, sweetened rice onto each serving plate. Top with about ½ of a chilled, sliced mango. Drizzle with sweetened coconut cream. Serve immediately.

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Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

Strawberries and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff

When you have a  kid that hates chocolate, you have to get creative with your campfire treats.

Dipping fresh strawberries in homemade marshmallow fluff and toasting them over the fire on a roasting stick sure makes up for not liking the s’mores that everyone else is eating.

In fact, you may have to guard your fruit ‘n fluff from the s’mores eaters who think they are the ones getting the short end of the roasting stick!

Marshmallow Fluff

Marshmallow fluff is easy to make yourself, but does require a candy thermometer. It is so much better than the stuff you buy in a jar! And toasting it makes it even more delicious. You can coat most fruits with the fluff for toasting. Try things like strawberries, fresh pineapple, mangos, bananas, mandarin orange segments, kiwi fruit. Or even chunks of pound cake.

Another benefit: you can swap out the vanilla extract with something more exotic, like lemon, coconut, orange, or almond extract to give your fluff a fun new flavor. Mango chunks dipped in coconut flavored fluff = YUM!

We may have even been known to make this in the winter, toasting our fluff-coated-fruit over sterno cans.

RECIPE:

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff

Strawberries and Toasted Marshmallow Fluff

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup (9 oz) light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
Pinch of salt
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or other flavored extract: lemon, orange, almond, coconut)

Mix 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Use a spatula to scrape edges of pan as it cooks. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue to cook until mixture registers 240°F on the thermometer. Remove from heat.

While sugar mixture is cooking, place egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best). Beat until egg whites are foamy. Slowly add 2 Tbs sugar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.

Turn mixer onto low speed and slowly pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl. Once all of the syrup has been mixed in, increase mixer speed and beat for 3-5 minutes, or until mixture forms stiff peaks. Add vanilla (or other flavored extract) and beat for an additional minute.

Store marshmallow fluff in the refrigerator.

FOR TOASTED FLUFF-COVERED FRUIT:

Dip fruit (strawberries, fresh pineapple, mangos, bananas, mandarin orange segments, kiwi fruit, etc) in the marshmallow fluff. Place on a roasting stick and cook over an open flame until lightly toasted.

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White Chocolate Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[10]

A delicious white chocolate cheesecake swirled with a sweetened raspberry puree is made even more decadent with a stabilized whipped cream and some toasted almonds. The crust is an Almond Coconut Crust that is easy to make gluten free.

Perfect for a summer dessert, or for raising money at a Boy Scout fundraising auction.

Cheesecakes should always be baked in a water bath. This helps them cook evenly, without becoming grainy. For a more in-depth look at cooking a cheesecake in a water bath, click HERE.

When the cheesecake has chilled for several hours (or overnight), remove it from the springform pan and prepare to transform the slightly boring cheesecake into something beautiful and mouth-watering.

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[12]

Spread the outside edge of the cheesecake with chilled raspberry puree and place toasted almonds around the outside edge. The puree will “glue” the almonds to the cheesecake. Try to use unbroken almonds that are similar in size.

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[14]

The whipped cream topping used to garnish the cake is a stabilized whipped cream. The addition of cream cheese to the whipped cream keeps the whipped cream from breaking down. It will keep for at least 4-5 days in the refrigerator without separating and breaking down.

Use a pastry bag and piping tips to decorate the top edge of the cheesecake. I piped large and small stars around the outside top edge and garnished the top with fresh raspberries. I piped small stars around the bottom edge of the cheesecake.

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake

RECIPE:

White Chocolate Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake

White-Chocolate-Raspberry-Cheesecake[5]

Almond Coconut Crust (recipe below)

½ cup heavy cream
6 oz (about 1 cup) white chocolate chips
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
½ cup sour cream
½ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
¼ tsp salt
3 eggs

1 cup Raspberry Puree (recipe below)
about 1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Whipped Cream Topping (recipe below)
Fresh raspberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare and bake Almond Coconut Crust in a 9” springform pan. Cool completely. Wrap springform pan in a double layer of foil, or one layer of foil and then place in an oven bag (like the kind used for turkeys) or a crock-pot liner. Place wrapped springform pan in a larger roasting pan.

Place ½ cup heavy cream in a Pyrex measuring cup and heat for 1 minute in the microwave. Stir in white chocolate chips until smooth. Cool slightly while preparing rest of cheesecake batter.

In a large mixing bowl, use a mixer to combine cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt. Beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in cooled chocolate mixture. Add eggs to mixing bowl and beat until just combined.

Pour half of the cheesecake batter over the crust  in the prepared pan. Measure out ½ cup of the Raspberry Puree and use this to place dollops around the top of the cheesecake batter. Use a knife to gently swirl. Top with remaining cheesecake batter and swirl with an additional ½ cup of the raspberry puree.

Fill roasting pan (not springform pan!) with very hot water to about 2-inches deep. Bake the cheesecake in the water bath for about 60-75 minutes at 350°F, or until just the very center of the cheesecake is still jiggly. Remove springform pan from the water bath and run a sharp knife around the sides, but do not remove the ring of the pan.

Let cheesecake cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Cover cheesecake pan (do not remove sides) with plastic wrap, taking care not to touch the surface of the cheesecake. Chill for at least four hours or overnight.

To serve:

Remove plastic wrap and remove the outer edge of the spring form pan. Slide a knife or spatula between the parchment paper lining and the crust, and slide the cheesecake off of the spring form base and onto a cake stand or serving platter. Discard parchment paper round.

Spread about ½ cup of the Raspberry Puree around the outside edge of the chilled cheesecake. Press toasted almond slices around the edge, covering the edge completely.

Prepare Whipped Cream Topping and use a pastry bag to pipe large and small stars or flowers around the top edge of the cheesecake, garnishing with fresh raspberries. Pipe small stars/flowers around bottom edge of cheesecake.

Almond Coconut Crust
¾ cup whole roasted almonds
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs flour (omit flour for gluten-free)
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds, sugar, flour, and coconut in a food processor and pulse until it forms coarse crumbs. Add melted butter and pulse until just moistened.

Line a 9″ springform pan with a parchment round. Spray lightly with baking spray. Spread the crust crumbs evenly onto just the bottom of the springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely before adding filling.

Raspberry Puree
12 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen (about 2 1/2 cups of not crushed fresh berries)
½ cup water
3 Tbs sugar
½ Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs ClearJel or cornstarch
¼ cup cold water

In a heavy saucepan, combine raspberries, ½ cup water, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, crushing berries slightly with the back of a spoon. Strain the berries through a fine sieve, pushing the pulp through the sieve with the back of a spoon. Return seedless puree to the saucepan (rinse saucepan first if there are seeds clinging to the sides). Mix the cornstarch and ¼ cup cold water in a small bowl; stir into puree in the saucepan. Return mixture to a boil; lower heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes, or until slightly thickened and no longer cloudy. Cool before using. Store leftover puree in the refrigerator.

Whipped Cream Topping
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbs cream cheese, very soft
2 Tbs powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp almond extract
Pinch of salt

Combine  heavy cream and softened cream cheese (must be very soft, or your topping will be chunky!) in a large bowl. Beat until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, and salt; beat until stiff peaks form.  (The cream cheese in this topping will stabilize your whipped cream and help it keep its shape even over several days.)

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